Walking in Scotland - Mountains
Scotland’s mountains are more than just bits of ground that have got above themselves; they are majestic. The Fort William Mountain Festival celebrates these haughty hills, finds Ren Deakin
To start the festival in swinging style, mountain men and women will be hoisted by gondola up 2150ft of Aonach Mor to the Snowgoose Restaurant. With views next door of neighbouring Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak, this promises to be a high altitude ceilidh.
Saturday starts with serious fun, an all day Avalanche Awareness Workshop run by the professionals from Nevis Range and Abacus Mountaineering. If your idea of fun is learning how to avoid getting buried in tons of snow, and what you should and shouldn’t do should the slush hit the fan, then you need to book in advance. This course promises to be much more than a bloke in a kagool shouting, “It’s behind you!” St. Bernard’s are not compulsory. Bring your own brandy (optional).
If getting buried alive doesn’t appeal to your Edgar Allen-Poe side, then why not give ice-climbing a go? The world’s biggest indoor ice wall is waiting for you. This two-and-a-half hour session is aimed at adult beginners. You’ll start off learning about footwork and how to use the tools of the trade. Within the session you’ll move from easy slopes to vertical ice. This is the sort of sport that appeals to boys and girls who like axes, crampons, ropes and ice - but there are a lot of them about, so book early.
There’s plenty for the beginners and people who want to learn a bit more, but what about you experts? The Black Corries offer some of the best off-piste skiing and snowboarding in Scotland. But be aware, this isn’t for weekend warriors with all the gear and no idea, this is the real deal.
So far so cold, so snowy, so icy. The hills tend to be an all year round feature, and the good Festival folk have catered for those of you whose idea of fun is slipping into some Lycra and hulking yourselves down the slopes on two wheels. The Jump Jam is your opportunity to test out the Forestry Commission’s dirt jump whilst balanced precariously on a mountain bike. There are a variety of jumps from beginner to expert, so whatever your experience and ability you can give it go.
The pros at the Dirt School will be on hand to offer expert coaching and tips. One hour workshops will be split into three levels: New Jumpers, Getting Air and Tricks, so you can push your boundaries as far as you want. The Jump Jam will finish up with a competition, where riders will be graded on their style, and of course, how big they go - so expect some spills and thrills
The Fort William Mountain Festival runs Fri 6–Sat 14 Mar. See www.mountain festival.co.uk for full details or call 01397 700 001.